Q+A: Maya Moore
The Lynx forward is determined to repeat as WNBA Champion.
by Sherron Shabazz / @SherronShabazz
The Minnesota Lynx are on a quest to repeat as WNBA Champions, and the most important piece to the team’s Championship puzzle is second year player Maya Moore. Moore wears many hats for Minnesota. She’s second on the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, while leading the Lynx in steals.
Moore’ versatility on both ends is what will make Minnesota a difficult out in the Playoffs. The Lynx have home court advantage through the WNBA Finals and boast a 15-1 record at the Target Center. An already confident Moore is playing on a higher level after winning gold at the 2012 Olympic games. The former UConn standout ranks in the top 15 in the WNBA in points, rebounds and assists. Between Moore, fellow backcourt mates Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, and a veteran frontcourt of Rebekkah Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin, on paper the Lynx are nearly unbeatable.
SLAMonline recently caught up with Moore to discuss her Olympic experience, the pressure she faced being the first overall pick in 2011, and Minnesota’s chances of repeating.
SLAM: You’ve been named Player of the Week twice since the Olympic break. What’s been different about your game during the second half of the season?
Maya Moore: I think in general as a team we’re coming together. I feed a lot off my team. We’ve been playing very well as a group moving the ball. I’ve been pleased to give a lot of assists during these last few games, and my teammates have done a good job of knocking down shots. It’s just a representation of having a good time and I’m just doing all that I can to be aggressive.
SLAM: Talk about your Olympic experience and winning a gold medal.
MM: It was awesome just to be a part of that group, learn a lot from the veterans, represent my country, play on such a big stage, and have such a good performance as a team. I thought we just dominated, especially in that gold medal game. It was really fun to be part of such a dominating group of players. The coaching staff was awesome. It was a huge honor to be able to have that platform and represent my country.
SLAM: Where’s the medal?
MM: The medal is in my house right now. I’m just excited to show it off as many times as I can.
SLAM: Did having Coach Auriemma, Lindsay and Seimone in London give you a sense of comfort and familiarity?
MM: Yeah, for sure. It was definitely more fun to be able to play with one of my former teammates in Tina Charles and some players that I hardly ever get a chance to play with. I was spoiled to have Lindsay and Seimone there. I got to know them even more over in London, had a blast with them on the court, and bringing that back here to Minnesota.
SLAM: The team was on an 11-game winning streak and has home court locked up in the Playoffs. Is the mentality now to rest or to keep your foot on the pedal in these last few games?
MM: Rest happens after the seasons over. There’s definitely a sense of focus and competitiveness that we have as a group. In every game we want to come out as a group, play our best, and take steps forward. The season isn’t long enough to take days off. That’s not who we are anyway. It’s always a great performance every time we step on the court and we want to make sure that we’re playing the game of basketball the way it should be played when we’re out there.
SLAM: Your first round opponent in the playoffs will be Seattle. What are some of the challenges that the Storm present?
MM: Well, that’s a ways off. We definitely played Seattle enough to know they’re a tough team to play against. They try to keep the score down. It’s usually not a high scoring game so we’re going to have to be efficient on offense. They have so many weapons. They’re a very smart team and a very efficient team. They’re another great western conference team and when they get into a rhythm it’s hard to stop them. They’re one of those teams you have to be highly focused on the entire game.
SLAM: Last season, was there a lot of pressure on you coming into the league as the number one pick?
MM: I think no matter what pick I would have been drafted I would have very high expectations of myself. In any situation, I want to contribute and bring a lot of energy. The things that I bring to every team I play for are pretty similar. I bring a lot of energy, score the basketball, hustle plays, rebound, just do every little thing that I can in every category to help my team.
I just tried to do a lot of learning, watch the veterans, work through some kinks and I’ve been able to improve since last year with my poise and comfort level on the court. I’m still continuing to learn all these great players in the league, their styles, and finding ways to improve my offensive and defensive game.
SLAM: What part of your game do you think needs the most work today?
MM: I think just continuing to make great decisions with the basketball. Whether that’s in transition or coming off of a screen, great players always make good decisions with the basketball. There’s always ways to improve on that. The more the ball is in my hands the more opportunities that I’ll have to continue to make great plays. Also, defensively I have to be smarter, and know the tendencies of my opponents.
SLAM: You’ve improved statistically from your rookie year to now. What did you learn last year that carried over?
MM: Probably just the pace and learning the speed of the game. Not too fast, not too slow, just kind of slowing down and finding that good rhythm. I think as a young player you want to go really, really fast and you can get a little bit ahead of yourself. So I try to slow down a little bit. It’s really been fun to feel that sense of poise and continue to strive for that every game.
SLAM: In the course of one year, you’ve won a WNBA title, a Euroleague title and an Olympic gold medal. Not to mention two NCAA National Championships. A lot of players don’t achieve one of those feats in an entire career. Does it ever feel like it’s not real?
MM: Yeah, it’s truly been a blessing. I just praise God for the opportunities that I’ve been able to have, the timing of my career, and the great teams that I’ve been able to play for. I just want to continue to work the hardest I can with the opportunities that I’ve been given and continue to compete. As a competitor I always want to be in the most competitive environments, and usually when I’m in the most competitive environments the best comes out of both myself and my teammates.
SLAM: What individual goals do you have for your playing career?
MM: As many Championships as possible.
SLAM: What do the Lynx have to do to repeat as WNBA Champions?
MM: Just continue to be the best defensive team, rebound the basketball and share the ball. We feel like we have so many weapons, so we want to make sure we continue to share the ball and go into every game as prepared as possible.